Shouts of, "Come on over! Get some lemonade from me!" could be heard emanating from the concourse above Section 125 at Citizens Bank Park during Saturday's Molson Canadian NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game.
Decked out in Winter Classic gear, Cole could easily be mistaken for one of the thousands of kids who attended the game -- because he is one. But Cole, a 7-year-old with a magnetic personality, was there on behalf of an organization even closer to his heart than his beloved Flyers: Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.
When he was 3, Cole, a toddler already burdened with serious birth-related injuries, was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma. After six chemotherapy treatments, the cancer that threatened his young life fled into remission.
2012 WINTER CLASSIC
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Liz and Jay Scott started ALSF after their 8-year-old daughter, Alex, succumbed in 2004 to the same neuroblastoma that affected Cole. Four years earlier, Alex started raising money for pediatric cancer research by hosting a lemonade stand in her front yard. From there, the grassroots effort exploded, and Alex realized her $1 million goal before she passed. Her parents have since grown the operation into a national fundraising juggernaut -- in 2011, ALSF exceeded the $10 million mark for the calendar year.
To kick off 2012, the ALSF added the Winter Classic to its growing network of major events. The Scotts are thrilled about hosting the stands in their backyard -- ALSF is headquartered in Philadelphia, where the Scotts moved to be closer to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"When we first moved here from Hartford (Connecticut), I was unsure how the community would accept Alex," Liz Scott told NHL.com. "But what we found inspiring was Philadelphia's special hometown spirit, which comes through in their sports, obviously. But we saw it come through when they embraced Alex's Lemonade Stand as family."
With that in mind, a game featuring the Flyers, their history of fighting and fundraising for cancer and, especially, their passionate fans was a natural fit for the charity. The NHL offered the space for the stands, and an in-game spot on the Jumbotron.
"One thing the NHL and ALSF share are very dedicated and passionate supporters," Scott said.
It was also a natural fit for the Fitzgerald family, who as ALSF Ambassadors host stands throughout the year (Scott said the family volunteers at more community events than she does). Even better, they are hardcore Flyer supporters, a team Cole's mother Keren said her son and husband "watch religiously on television."
"On Saturday it was amazing to see the heroes that I grew up watching on TV with my own father (who died in 2009 from a form of leukemia) take the ice," Keren told NHL.com by email. "And for me to be able to stand there with my own son who loves the Flyers, it was just a fantastic moment."
Scott said that they expect to raise around $2,000 over the weekend with the two booths. While that sounds like a drop in the bucket when you consider the $50 million in funds raised thus far, Scott assured otherwise.
"That's what we built our organization on," Scott said. "Alex's philosophy was that every single donation counts. " We have 6,000 lemonade stands a year, and the typical stand raises about $400. The majority of our money is literally given by the dollar."
Aside from the financial boon, Scott said the marquee event would provide valuable exposure. Keren confirmed that, despite the hometown spirit surrounding the stands, the universal message rang true with both Rangers and Flyers faithful.
"What was really cool was we saw as much participation from Rangers fans who came to the game in all their regalia," she said. "We saw a good amount of participation from both sides. It's one of those causes that really does unite -- it doesn't matter what team you're rooting for, you can still come together to support the cause."